newsletter / february '08
Go Valentine: Love is all around in tropical Asia
Paris and Venice may be the romantic capitals of Europe and of course we know about New York and its Empire State building from Sleepless in Seattle, but seriously, besides being both clichéd and passé, how can a person feel amorous in the freezing cold? It may increase the appeal of a hearth rug and fire, but why not just avoid the corny destinations altogether and travel somewhere exotic and tropical this Valentine's Day? Asia is the answer. Venture somewhere balmy, somewhere colorful, somewhere piquant, somewhere spiritual. Romance on the shores of a white powder sand beach, with the waves lapping at your toes. There are just so many options. Affordable ones too.
Here are some of our suggestions:
Charming Koh Chang: Thailand's unspoiled treasure island
Often overshadowed by the more commercialized Southern island counterparts of Koh Samui and Phuket, Thailand's Koh Chang has remained refreshingly unspoiled and tranquil. The island is truly a place of tropical clichés – palm–fringed beaches, turquoise waters, lush mountainous jungle and the scent of coconut in the air. Named the 'elephant island' due to its shape, Koh Chang is all the more attractive because of its proximity to Bangkok (a 4–5 hour drive followed by a ferry trip).
The sublime elephant island is one of 52 located off the coast of Trat that comprise the Koh Chang Marine National Park. It is also Thailand's second largest island and more than 70% of its natural rainforests remain undisturbed. Whilst its inviting white sand beaches provide the perfect opportunity for R&R, the hilly surrounds also attract those looking for adventure.
The most popular and most commercial beach on Koh Chang is Had Sai Khao (White Sand Beach), where most visitors venture due to the number of accommodation and activity options. Klong Son Beach is quieter while Had Kai Mook (Pearl Beach) is pebbled and allows for sightings of large clams on the sand. Laem Chaichet is a small cape that rounds into a secluded bay and ideal for watching the sunset. Kai Bae Beach is also perfect for settling in to enjoy the spectacular sunsets, with its sandy beach, and dive shops providing opportunities for snorkeling, canoeing and diving.
When the sun, sand and sea begin to lose their charm, a number of other activities are available on Koh Chang. Take a Thai cooking class at the Aiyapura Resort and Spa or try elephant trekking (Chang Chutiman Tour, 089–939–6676) into the rainforests and pomelo orchards. A number of spas are scattered throughout the island offering massages and other beauty treatments. For something a little more physical, hiking routes–with varying levels of difficulties–can be enjoyed, many including a trip to the waterfalls. Don't miss the thousands of fireflies that light up the mangrove forest in the cooler months. Finally, no Thai island is complete without a few temples, and Koh Chang is home to Wat Bang Bao, Wat Khlong Prao, and Wat Khlong Son.
Koh Chang is enjoyed by both backpackers and luxury travelers, with a number of five–star hotels with private beaches and enough activities on–site to ensure a guest never has to leave the premises, as well as Robinson Crusoe style, wooden bungalows without air–conditioning or indoor plumbing for the true survivor. For a tourist destination so close to Bangkok, Koh Chang has managed to retain much of its natural wonder while providing a wide array of activities to satisfy any kind of vacationer
Bird Flu in Asia: Avoiding Foul Play
Asia has quite a reputation for breeding deadly influenza strains and – understandably – this often acts as a deterrent to those considering a trip to Oriental shores. However, while there can be some nasty viruses around, there are simple precautions one can take to prevent yourself getting sick. One of the most commonly feared viruses, the H5N1 virus which causes an influenza colloquially known as 'bird flu', is by far the most talked of and recent of the major viral threats in Asia. So what is bird flu exactly and how prevalent is it? How can I avoid foul play when traveling to Asian countries?
Firstly, Avian Influenza is a contagious disease mostly spread among poultry. It generally does not affect humans, with the exception of cases where human beings have had direct contact with infected birds or diseased poultry meat. According to the WHO, "exposure risk is considered highest during slaughter, defeathering, butchering, and preparation of poultry for cooking. There is no evidence that properly cooked poultry or poultry products can be a source of infection."
While millions of chickens and other birds have been slaughtered throughout Asia, only 348 cases of human infection have been reported since 1997. Also, the number of infections has been minimal in recent years with better hygiene standards and knowledge of the disease. Symptoms include typical flu–like signs such as a fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and vomiting. Pneumonia, severe respiratory diseases, and life–threatening complications will generally follow.
Preventing infection mostly comes down to common sense. Here are some tips:
Following the above procedures should ensure your safety. It is worth noting that the WHO has not initiated any restrictions on traveling to areas which have been affected by Avian Influenza, nor do they recommend screening of those who have traveled to affected areas. This is because risk of infection among humans is generally considered uncommon.
Travel Tip: The Sneaky Flip Flop
Flip flops are a must–have item for any tropical holiday and they can be bought cheap at the destination and thrown out when you leave. However, while great for beachside lodging and walking small distances, flip flops are pretty flimsy and offer no support for your heal. So, why not get a pair that offers the flexibility and aeration of a flip flop but gives the support of a proper shoe? Hence, the sneaky flip flop. A popular example would be Teva shoes, although there are many more selections these days. Walk smart.
Review of the month: Andamanee Boutique Resort, Krabi, Thailand
Posted by Heidi Ahsmann
If you like to be away from Ao Nang's (Krabi, Thailand) busy tourist areas, this hotel will be perfect for you. It's only a short Tuk Tuk drive from the centre of Ao Nang and within walking distance from the first beach. The Andamanee has a definite wow–factor, as it is beautifully designed and has very friendly and helpful staff. The first beach you come to when going from the hotel to the center of Ao Nang, is part of the Nopparat Thara National Marine Park. It is unspoiled and less touristy. It has a number of small shops and eating establishments nearby. One of these is called The Seahorse, which serves excellent original Thai food for unbelievably cheap prices. If you like your food, you don't want to miss this one!